We have become too familiar with the word ‘crisis’ lately. From health care, to housing, to the cost of living, we are not short on crises and they are having a profound impact on people in our province. But the deadliest crisis in B.C. is one we have been dealing with for six years, and it is still getting worse. The toxic drug crisis has tragically claimed the lives of more than 10,000 British Columbians since it was first declared a public health emergency.
Toxic drugs are the leading cause of ‘unnatural death’ in B.C., leading to the deaths of an average of six people every day. The recent BC Coroners Service report on illicit drug toxicity deaths shows that a total of 171 people lost their lives to toxic drugs this September.
We know that this is a provincewide issue, and while government spends a considerable amount of time discussing how they are addressing the problem, the situation is only getting worse. Flashy government announcements lose their impact when people continue to die in record numbers. It’s one thing to throw money at the problem — and don’t get me wrong, adequate funding is critically important — but how do we ensure that funding is having the impact it is supposed to? We need to be investing our resources in measures that will save lives. We cannot keep doing more of the same, because it is simply not working.
Recently, the multi-party Select Standing Committee on Health released a report, Closing Gaps, Reducing Barriers, which highlighted just how broken the current approach to mental health and addictions is in British Columbia. It recommended 37 actionable steps that government could take to make a difference.
There are measures that must be taken, urgently, to fix the patchwork approach that is currently allowing too many people to fall through the cracks. For the good of our province, I hope that those steps are taken soon — we need real action to save lives.
Lorne Doerkson is the MLA for the Cariboo Chilcotin.